Adventurer begins attempt at solo North Atlantic row

Niall Iain prepares to leave Norfolk on his challenge to row the North Atlantic solo.
Niall Iain prepares to leave Norfolk on his challenge to row the North Atlantic solo.

Island adventurer Niall Iain Macdonald has begun a new attempt to row solo across the North Atlantic Ocean, all the way from the East Coast of America to his home in the Hebrides.

Niall Iain, 44, left Norfolk, Virginia, at 6am this morning (Wednesday) local time (10am GMT / 11am BST).

He hopes to complete his 3,400 rowing challenge in three to four months and will be rowing for 12 hours a day, every day, on a two hour on/off rotation.

Niall Iain signalled the start of his challenge with a simple post on Twitter and Facebook – “How long should you try? Until. 36°55′17″N 76°11′19″W”

This is a third attempt at the North Atlantic row – previously named NY2SY as he planned to go from New York to Stornoway – for freelance broadcaster Niall Iain.

His first attempt at the challenge in 2014 ended when he suffered a bad accident on board just nine days into it.

He always knew he would make another attempt.

“I remember when we went back out to get the boat in 2014, on that day we found her. When I saw the boat on its own in the ocean, I felt ‘I should be on it’ – and I knew that I was going to try again at some point.”

However, the time was not right for a second attempt until last year.

Then, he spent six weeks in New York on standby to start, waiting for a weather window that would allow him to clear land safely – but it never came, due to a series of low pressure systems.

He returned again to New York in late April this year and spent another two weeks on standby until making the decision with this weather router, at the end of last week, to move further down the US coast to take advantage of better weather conditions.

He moved his boat from Liberty Landing Marina in Manhattan and she went back in the water at Cobb’s Marina on Little Creek, Norfolk, on Tuesday.

Niall Iain, who lives in the Isle of Lewis and was born in Inverness, is undertaking NY2SY to raise at least £100,000 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and to raise awareness of mental health issues in general, having had his own struggles in the past.

Although he will be rowing solo, Niall Iain has a shore-based support team – led by Leven Brown, who is also acting as his weather router and was instrumental in the decision to move the start point because of the persistent unfavourable conditions in New York.

Leven was part of Mark Beaumont’s support team for his Around Britain cycle challenge last year and is a hugely-respected ocean rower in his own right.

Speaking just before he left Norfolk, Niall Iain said: “I feel calm and I feel excited. I still have the same clammy hands and fear when I really think about it and I’m not getting ahead of myself. Each day as it comes.

“I’m as scared as I was the first time I attempted it, but I know it is possible. I know that I’ve trained hard and properly for what lies ahead and I’m really excited as well.”

He deliberately kept it low key this time, so he could make preparations away from the media glare. “I just wanted to focus on what was ahead of me, so very few people knew. It took a bit of pressure off me.

“In 2014 there was quite a lot of fuss made and I always felt uncomfortable with it as I hadn’t actually done anything yet.

“I understood the interest but It always bothered me. So when I decided to go again, I thought, ‘things have changed a bit’. Hopefully we can celebrate at the end of it all.”

Niall Iain’s boat – a 24ft ocean rower – has been renamed ALBA which is the Gaelic name for Scotland.

Donations can be made via Niall Iain’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/NY2SY.

The main website address for the challenge is http://www.NY2SY.co.uk and there is a tracker there, at www.ny2sy.co.uk/track-my-progress.

Although he will not be able to see any comments made on social media while he is away, Niall Iain will be keeping people informed by blogging about his experiences at blog.mailasail.com/ny2sy and posting updates on his Twitter and Facebook pages.

Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/NY2SYsolo and on Twitter as @NY2SYsolo. Useful hashtags are #NY2SY and #SAMH.